September 06, 2010

Assignment to Earth Chapter Seventeen

Skylar and Jenna glanced at each other with looks of frustration. They reholstered their weapons and waited for Glen to make his way over to them.

"Would somebody please tell me what's going on here?" Glen bellowed before he had quite caught up to them. "And I want the truth. Don’t tell me you're looking for a crashed airplane when you're busting into a door in the side of a sand dune with guns drawn!"

Skylar shook his head and climbed back up the sand dune, motioning for Jenna to follow. She obeyed the silent order without question. Glen let out another roar. "Now where do you two think you’re going?"

"I'll explain," Skylar called over his shoulder, "but not on the Klodfons' doorstep." He continued climbing, Jenna at his heels, leaving Glen no choice but to follow them...that is, if he wanted any answers at all...and Skylar knew he did.

Glen scrambled up the dune in their wake and the three of them slid down the other side.

"What's a Clod-fawn?" The breathless query reached their ears as they came to a stop at the bottom.

"Be glad you don't know," Skylar said, "and I hope you never find out. This is something Jenna and I have to do. Alone. Now, go back to camp."

Glen shook his head. "I'm not moving until I know what's going on here...unless it's to follow you two,"

"Glen..." Skylar's voice was hard.

Jenna looked at the expressions on both men's faces and entered the debate, "Skylar, keeping in mind our timetable, you'd better tell him. He's as stubborn as a gureet and you'll only waste what precious time we have until you do." When Skylar hesitated, she added, "And we'll miss our ride."

Skylar looked at Glen, saw the determination in his eyes, then sighed. Jenna was right; he would have to be told.

Glen opened his mouth to speak, but Skylar forestalled him with a raised hand and motioned for them to be seated on the ground, the morning sun not yet high enough to give too much heat to the sand.

"Before I answer questions, you need some background information. Now realize, Glen, I’m not supposed to tell you any of this; in fact, I’m about to break all sorts of orders. But I know you a little, Jenna trusts you, and I think I can count on your honor—and your discretion?”

Glen hesitated a moment, then nodded his promise to remain quiet.

“Thank you.” Skylar continued. “This isn’t going to be easy for you to hear, and it will be even harder for you to believe, but I’m going to give you the truth. Our schedule, as Jenna pointed out, is tight. I don’t have time to soften it for you, or to deal with interruptions. So listen first, then ask questions when I‘ve finished.” His left eyebrow raised in question as he watched Glen, awaiting an answer.

Glen nodded again, his lips pursed tightly.

Skylar took a deep breath, then plunged into his explanation. “First, you need to understand that neither Jenna nor I are native to this planet. Jenna's from a planet called Terradia, which is halfway to the other side of the galaxy. She was stranded here five years ago when her fighter was shot down. I'm from a place called Timora, which was in another galaxy altogether. I was sent here to find a missing scout named Rantek. Although I haven’t located him yet, I believe he’s somewhere behind the door in the sand dune. That door leads to a Klodfon base which shouldn’t be anywhere near your planet, much less on it.”

“But what’s a—“ Glen started to ask, but was stopped by Skylar’s quickly uplifted hand.

“The Klodfons are very hostile…” he groped for a word that Glen would understand.

“Lizards.” Jenna prompted.

“Lizards,” Skylar repeated. “Thanks Jenna.”

“No charge.”

Skylar turned back to Glen. “The Klodfons’ primary goal is to destroy—or enslave—every last human being.”

Skylar watched Glen closely, assessing the information being given and how it was being received. Satisfied, he continued.

“If they want to destroy all the humans, why build a base here instead of just destroy the whole planet? Or is there something else I’m missing here?”

Jenna’s voice was soft. “My people have been protecting not only your planet, but every other place where the native population aren’t ready to join the Fellowship. Earth is near the front of the battle between us and the Klodfons. Keeping this base secret for the war effort is more valuable to them right now than a hundred million new slaves…or snacks.”

Skylar broke in. “History lesson over. Now it’s time for Current Events. Jenna and I are going through that door, into the Klodfon base. We are going to find Rantek, then the three of us are going to steal a ship and go home. There’s a large space ship, a Dragonstar, in the neighborhood, and with any luck we’ll be able to reach it before it leaves the area. From there, we’ll be able to return to our own ships, and our usual lives. I know all this sounds fantastic, but it's true." His eyes continued to appraise Glen closely as he continued.

"Thank you for taking such good care of Jenna, and thank you for bringing us this far. Now, if you'll go back to your camp, pack up, and go on home, we can complete our business and go home ourselves."

Although Glen's eyes had widened slightly, he had shown no other reaction, listening intently to Skylar’s discourse

He now rose decisively to his feet in quiet protest, his face set. "Nothing doing. I'm going in with you. If you miss your ride and come out some other door, you'll need someone who knows this desert to get you back out of it. What's the use of escaping these...lizard things...if you get lost in the desert and die of thirst? I know your water is gone." His own voice was as hard and determined as Skylar's had been, his chin was thrust forward uncompromisingly. Skylar and Jenna also stood.

Skylar faced the older man before him. Glen did not understand the extent of the threat facing not only him, but the human race as well. "Absolutely not. Go back to camp. You’re a civilian, and a local. I can't expose you to the Klodfons. It’s my responsibility to minimize damage to this planet and its people.”

Glen's chin rose a little and his voice became almost deadly quiet in his purpose. "I'm going in there with you, and you can’t stop me. This is my planet, and I have the right—and the responsibility—to protect it. I have my rifle. Besides, I’m not afraid of a lizard!"

Jenna grinned. "We're not talking gila monsters here, Uncle Glen. I'm afraid…of a seven-foot lizard wearing blast armor, carrying a laser rifle, and a deep hatred for any and every human being. And your rifle just might bruise his knee cap, if you’re lucky enough to hit it just right,"

"Seven...foot...lizard?!" Glen's eyes popped and his mouth hung open, disbelief coating his voice as he tried to gather his wits. "You've gotta be kidding me! Ones that tote rifles?" He turned back to Skylar. "If you’re used to these lizards, then why were you worried about a two hundred pound cat?"

Skylar smiled, "Klodfons I know. Tell me how you’d protect yourself from an unknown animal that outweighs you; keeping in mind you don’t even know what it looks like, so you can’t know when you’re in danger from it."

Glen nodded. “Good point.” Turning to Jenna, he continued. "Even so, I'm going with you. I've been taking care of you for five years and nothing is going to stop me now."

Skylar shook his head. "Glen, believe me. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is serious. You're a civilian. I can't take you in there. You're not properly trained and you're not suitably armed. You'd be a liability to me, not to mention how I'd get you home again. Go back to camp where you can stay out of danger."

"Now, just a durn minute, Skylar—" Glen said, taking a step closer.

Jenna stepped between the two men, interrupting their argument. "Would you both quit wasting time?” She turned to her adopted uncle. “Glen, if you go in there, chances are very good you'll die. Hannah will never see your body or know what happened to you. Do you still insist on going?"

Glen’s face twitched for a moment before he replied. "Absolutely! I swore an oath long ago, to protect my country with my life. I can’t go back on that oath now."

Jenna sighed, "I was afraid of that." She turned to face Skylar. "He’s right that we can’t stop him, short of going home with him—unless we stun him and leave him here for the buzzards. Also, it is his planet and he has the right to die protecting it. He knows the risk he's facing, as much as he can without having seen a Klodfon, anyway. Now, let's go before we lose too much more time."

With a final look at Glen then Skylar, she turned and started back up the dune, calling over her shoulder, "I'm going in. Who's coming with me?" Both men hastened to scramble in her wake.